Since Brexit came into effect, there have been many changes to rules and entitlements for British people travelling to Europe.
One such change relates to healthcare, with the replacement of the European health insurance card (EHIC), which entitles people from the UK to essential medical care when abroad.
Claims swirled on social media that there was a deadline in place, variously quoted as 21 or 22 March 2022, for people to apply for an EHIC card, to keep an entitlement to free medical care in EU countries for five years.
Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it False.
The European health insurance card (EHIC) entitles you to essential state healthcare when you are temporarily staying in any EU country, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Not all state healthcare is free in these countries, so it does not necessarily mean all healthcare will be free. But you will be treated at the same cost as people insured in that country.
It covers pre-existing conditions, maternity care and emergency care.
EHIC is a European Union scheme, and while the UK was part of the EU, it issued more than 27 million cards.
Due to the UK’s exit from the EU, a replacement for UK citizens has been put in place, although current EHIC cards are still valid until expiry.
The Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) offers the same level of cover to the EHIC, but doesn’t currently include Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
Rumours swirled on social media, amplified by a number of verified accounts, that there was a deadline for renewing your EHIC card on 21 or 22 March 2022. A number of claims suggested that this renewal was required to ensure “free state medical care in EU countries for 5 years”.
This is false. The NHS has confirmed that no deadline was in place for applications or renewal of either EHIC or GHIC cards.
NHS Overseas Healthcare Services said: “There is no deadline to apply for a UK GHIC.
“We are aware of an unofficial inaccurate message being circulated regarding deadlines.
“If you have an existing European health insurance card (EHIC) you can continue to use it until it expires.”
Those who are resident in the UK but are EU citizens are entitled to EHIC cards, whereas UK nationals who’s healthcare is provided by the NHS will transfer over to the GHIC.
Both cards give the same entitlement to healthcare within the EU, and UK citizens can apply at any time.
Ferret Fact Service verdict: False
Claims on social media that 22 March was the deadline to get a European health insurance card are not accurate. The NHS has confirmed there is no deadline in place, and UK nationals are able to keep their EHIC until it expires, when they can apply for a replacement Global Health Insurance Card, which has the same benefits but does not include Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
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